Friday, January 5, 2007

Spiritual Raiment

A Reading from the First Sunday of Christmas - Revised Common Lectionary, year C:

"As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." -- Colossians 3:12-14

St. Paul writes about these subjects in a number of ways throughout his letters to the early christian congregations; this just happens to be one of his best because of its metaphorical usage and succinct style. Unfortunately, we are no better at clothing ourselves in these virtues then the early Christians were 2000 years ago.

How can we to do this today? Considering how polarized we are culturally and politically, (never mind religiously), it doesn't seem possible (or practical, frankly) to even bother. However, this is precisely the cross that Jesus has asked us to bear. And we can - or should - do no less.

It seems to this writer that this is easier to do when the object is less fortunate then we are - it makes us feel good after all. The harder task is when the object is more familiar and ordinary. To follow this admonition on a daily basis is the real mark we should be aiming for.

But compassion requires opening the heart which our society doesn't practice (or value) these days. It also requires empathy which, again, seems all but absent in society because it looks weak. Humility, kindness, meekness, and patience all require one to sublimate ones self desires for the sake of others. All of this is possible only through love. As Jesus was the personification of God's love, (and sublimated his divinity to the point of death), so we should be that personification to our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

The Church, writ both with large and small "c", should consider this passage as well. She is good at following these instructions, but not consistently and not without caveats; i.e. open vs. closed communion among other things.

I'll spare the reader the blistering critique where I point out, piously of course, those that should heed more carefully St. Paul's instruction. It's really not necessary. We already know how, where, and to whom it applies. Next time we dress for the day, let us clothe ourselves in St. Paul's spiritual raiment as well. It's just as important.

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